ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Friday, May 27, 2011


I spotted fresh, small, crispy spinach leaves (spinacia oleracea) today at the Happy Green Cooperative's organic store on the second floor at the sabzi bazaar. A pack sells for Nu 15 only.
The trick is not to overcook the leaves. They are delicious when stir fried rapidly with slices of purple onion, garlic, black pepper and olive oil. The fresh leaves can also be eaten raw and are quite refreshing in vegetable salads. Just make sure they are thoroughly washed.

Update: Apparently, a popular myth among the Dutch is that reheated spinach is dangerous to your health. Today was the first time ever I heard about it. It's an urban legend. Please tell your friends from the Netherlands not to worry about it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tech news roundup

ThimphuTech's take on technology news from Bhutan's leading news sources.

Headline: High Speed Internet  (18/5/2011)
Summary: Now that almost 100% of gewogs in Bhutan have cellular coverage, focus is shifted to closing the broadband digital divide.
Our take: A fibre optic network providing high-speed Internet to all gewogs has enormous potential, from distance learning to tele-medicine. It can also enable IT-based businesses in remote areas helping to mitigate rural-urban migration. The question is, as always, how will the technology be used. Will the to-be-established community centres be used as learning centres, communication centres, or will they turn into video-game/Facebook parlours/?

Headline: BICMA facilities better internet services (21/5/2011)
Summary: Software offered by LIRNEasia that will measure your Internet connection's performance is available for free download at Note: It was not easy to summarize this article, which has a rather misleading headline and some confusing technical information (e.g., the "speed of the internet" is not "300 millisecond return trip time")
Our take: With more and more users complaining about BT's internet speed, this is a good initiative. But what is one supposed to do with the test results? Feel free to share them with us!

Headline: BlackBerry refuses Bhutan (21/5/2011)
Summary: Research in Motion (RIM), the manufacturer of the BlackBerry smartphone, is not going to install a BlackBerry server in Bhutan.
Our take: One can understand the business logic behind the decision by RIM, but this is bad news for the few locals who own the device - known also as the CrackBerry due to its addictive nature - and will not be able to use its more advanced features. BlackBerry-addicted visitors to Bhutan will also be disappointed.
Bonus: Jerry Sienfeld and the BlackBerry.

Headline: Pills for piracy (21/5/2011)

SummaryIn an attempt to combat software piracy in Bhutan, an effort will be made to offer Microsoft products (especially MS Office) at reduced prices.
Our take: Good initiative! However, this will require more than a monetary discount. It is also about a change of mindset. But equally important: Why doesn't Microsoft provide free or almost-free software for schools, colleges and other educational and academic institutes in Bhutan, in the same way it does in other countries?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Design logo, win Nu 20,000

I just noticed in today's Bhutan Observer that the Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF) is looking for a logo. If you have a good eye for design, it might be your chance to win a hefty Nu 20,000. More details in the newspaper, or you may contact BMF directly.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Brilliant solution to ever-increasing petrol prices

No need to get angry!
"Fuel price hikes do not affect me. I always fill the tank with a Nu 100."
  -- A blissful taxi driver at the pump

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Help solve the big SMS mystery!

The recently published 2010 Statistical Bulletin from MoIC contains some interesting statistics. One of the tables which I found mind-boggling shows the number of SMSes sent by B-Mobile, by destination and month.

Rich countries and climate change

According to a recent Business Bhutan headline, "rich countries are not contributing enough to climate change". Sorry la... The rich countries are contributing more than enough to the climate change crisis, including generous amounts of CO2, N2O, and CH4...

Red is bad!

How long is Mountain Echoes 2011? It depends.

The 2nd Mountain Echoes literary festival is just around the corner, but there seems to be some confusion regarding the dates. According to the official Facebook page, it starts on the 20th and ends on the 24th: Thus, five days. If you happened to visit the official website, the poster says 20 to 24, but the programme ends on the 23rd: Four days. And according to today's Kuensel article and the Tarayana Foundation website, the festival is three days long. What to do la... finding accurate and up-to-date information online is not always easy!

Update (8:20pm): I was just watching a a BBS ad for the festival, which showed that the dates are May 21-22, a total of two days. I am totally confused now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Workshop: Decision Making Using Excel, June 1-3

Prof. Galit Shmueli will be conducting a 3-day workshop on "Decision Making Using Excel". The workshop is intended for decision makers in government, corporate and private organisations in Bhutan, as well as for entrepreneurs and those planning to start new businesses. Attendees will gain knowledge on how Microsoft Excel can be used effectively for evaluating projects and supporting decision making. 

The three-day workshop will take place on June 1-3 at the new Rigsum Institute campus (behind Hotel Pedling).

For more information and for online registration please visit

Prof Shmueli with graduates of the Oct 2010 workshop

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Again, Bhutan is cut off from the world

For the better part of today, Bhutan was cut off from the world: DrukNet's international Internet connection was down. This means that users in Bhutan were not able to access international websites, and people outside Bhutan were not able to reach .bt domains. (The last major Internet outage was reported here about two months ago). When I called DrukNet this morning, I was told that the fibre optic line to Hong Kong had some issues. There's also a line connecting Bhutan to London which apparently was intact. It is not clear why traffic was not routed through there.

For many countries today, a major Internet outage entails huge economic losses. This is still not the case in Bhutan, where most people and businesses don't rely on the Internet for their livelihood. However, dependency on the Internet will increase in upcoming years. Similar to water, electricity or phone service, Internet access will eventually become an essential utility.

P.S.: As a service to its customers, it would be useful for DrukNet to provide up-to-date information on outages and estimated time of resolution. Unfortunately, there was no mention of the outage on DrukNet's website (which was accessible within Bhutan during the outage) or BT's twitter account (which can be updated using SMS). Another medium for communicating with the public is SMS. This is currently used by Bhutan Telecom to advertise its own products, but it can also be used to inform the public about such outages.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Invalid broadband prepaid voucher?

Druknet offers a convenient way to recharge pre-paid broadband accounts using recharge vouchers, similar to pre-paid mobile phone recharge vouchers. Holding on to a spare voucher helps avoid a terrible rush to Bhutan Telecom office (or the One Stop Shop) when your balance is finished.

To use the recharge voucher, scratch the silver panel on the back to reveal the password and follow the directions written below it.

Got an "invalid username/password" error? If you are sure you typed correctly, try counting the number of characters in the password. If you have less than 8 characters, that's the problem. We have encountered a few vouchers that were missing the last digit/letter, most likely due to faulty printing. In that case, you will indeed have to rush back to the BT office or the One Stop Shop to reveal the missing characters (I admit I haven't tried calling by phone...)

How to cast a vote in Dzongkha?

Dzongkha is lacking a modern vocabulary, so new words must constantly be invented. Mr. Tshering Dhendup of Bhutan's National Council has spearheaded a bi-lingual Glossary of Parliamentary Terms which will be distributed to all National Council members in the upcoming session. More information is available in Tshering's blog post.

This reminds me of the revival of the Hebrew language. Hebrew ceased its existence as a day-to-day language in the 2nd century CE. In the 19th century - almost 2,000 years later - a unique revival process started taking place, and today millions of Israelis speak (and dream!) in Hebrew. As part of this highly successful experiment, thousands of new Hebrew words were invented, and modern dictionaries were written. However, words and dictionaries were not enough: there were no reading materials in modern Hebrew. Thus books, short stories, newspapers, poems, plays etc. were written in and translated to Hebrew.

Back to Dzongkha: Dictionaries are essentials, but there seems to be a lack of reading materials, especially for children. Translating children's classics (most of which are royalty-free) to Dzongkha can be a good first step.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Happiness gene" affects our well-being

No doubt: Some people are born with a happier disposition than others. And now there is scientific proof. Recent research has found a link between a gene called 5-HTT (long known to regulate serotonin) and our happiness levels. There are two versions of this gene, a "long" one and a "short" one. People who inherited two "long" 5-HTTs variants from their parents have been found to be - on average - the most satisfied with their lives. Folks who have one "long" variant and one "short" variant are a bit less happy. And the group of people with two "short" variants of the gene were found to be the least happy of the bunch. So if you're feeling a bit sad today - blame your parents...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Recovering Facebook photos (K2 #15)

Question of the Week
Over the last few years I have uploaded many photos from my smartphone to my Facebook account. Recently my smartphone was stolen. Is there an quick way to recover my photos?
-- Sonam in Bangkok

Sorry to hear about your smartphone! Here's some good news: Downloading album photos from your 
Facebook account is easy. A few months ago, Facebook added a Download Your Information feature. Using this feature, you can download an offline version of your Facebook account data. The data includes your profile, the wall, your list of friends, events, notes, messages, uploaded videos and also what you were looking for: all your photo albums.

Here's how to use this feature:

  1. After logging into your Facebook account, select Account at the top-right and then Account Settings from the drop-down menu. You will reach the My Account page. 
  2. Toward the bottom of the page, look for the Download Your Information section. Click on the learn more link, and just follow the simple instructions. It will take Facebook some time to prepare your download, and when it is ready, you will receive an email saying "Your download is ready" and containing a link back to the download page. 
  3. Click on the link. You will be asked to re-enter your password, and then offered to download a zip file. The file can be quite big, depending on how much content is in your Facebook account. 
  4. Download the file to your computer, then unzip it to a new folder on your hard disk. 
The folder will contain an index.html file in addition to a few folders. One of the folders - photos - will contain all your albums and photos, in JPG format. You can then copy your files back to your smartphone (use your phone-to-PC sync application). You can also view your Facebook account offline by opening the index.html file with any web browser. You might be surprised with how much information is contained in your account!

While we are on the topic of Facebook photos, here's a tip that could save you from some embarrassment. If you have photos that you don't want strangers to see, make sure that your privacy settings reflect that. To control who can view a photo album, go to the album, select Edit Album at the top, then click on the drop-down Privacy menu. To make sure that only your friends can see your photos, select "Friends only". Notice that by selecting "Friends of Friends", you are probably allowing thousands and thousands of people that you don't know to view your photos! To make the album completely private, select "Custom" and then "Only me". You will need to repeat this procedure for each and every photo album.

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Who viewed my FB profile? (K2 #14)

I got an invitation to a Facebook page promising to show me the list of users who viewed my profile. I am dying to know! Should I accept?
-- Sonam, Wangdue

There is absolutely no way to know who viewed your profile. Facebook does not provide this functionality, so do not be tempted! Any Facebook Application or web page that claims to show who viewed your Facebook profile is a scam, plain and simple. Yes, many of us are curious to know who's "stalking" us - but resist the temptation and you will prevent your computer from getting infected by a virus.

 I am getting a "Windows Genuine Advantage" warning. How to remove it from my PC?
-- S. J., Haa

In an effort to combat pirated versions of the Windows operating system, Microsoft has introduced a system that detects illegal Windows installations. This system is called "Windows Genuine Advantage", or WGA. If the system decided that your Windows copy is pirated, a pop-up window will often creep on the bottom right of the desktop with a message such as "This copy of Windows did not pass genuine Windows validation". In addition, it may cause your desktop wallpaper to turn black, which is annoying. Even worse, it will disable the Windows Update feature which is used to patch up your system for security vulnerabilities. So how should one go about this issue? Apart from the obvious solution of using a legal copy of Windows, the web is packed with information on removing WGA. Unsurprisingly, you are not alone! One place to start is And searching for "how to remove wga" on Google will fetch plenty of other links, including some YouTube tutorials. Be extra careful if you decide to take that route, especially when asked to download "WGA removers": these removers might actually be viruses in disguise; also, be careful when asked to edit the Windows registry. If you don't feel comfortable with these tweaks, it might be better to ask a PC technician.

I have formatted my PC but now have two operating systems - both of them are Microsoft Windows XP Professional. How do I delete one of these?
-- Naku, DGPC, Tshimalakha

Just follow the steps in

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dzongkha on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

A few months ago we demonstrated the first Dzongkha-enabled smartphone, the Nokia N900. The list of supported devices has since expanded. If you own an iPhone or iPad (or an iPod Touch), you will be glad to learn that these devices now fully support Dzongkha (Update: some stacking combinations are not available as this is a Tibetan keyboard. Our N900 currently remains the only smartphone with 100% support as well as a DDC keyboard). 

In a recent operating system update (iOS 4.2, November 2010), Apple added a Tibetan keyboard as well as the ability to display Tibetan/Dzongkha letters correctly. Note: Apple's Tibetan keyboard layout is different from the DDC's Dzongkha keyboard layout, as can be seen in the image below. You can find more information here.

If you own one of these devices, you are now able to browse Dzongkha websites (such as, see below), type emails in Dzongkha, and - if you have an iPhone - send an SMS in Dzongkha.

To enable the Tibetan keyboard, go to Settings → General → Keyboard → International Keyboards → Add New Keyboard ... → Tibetan.

Hopefully, built-in support for Tibetan/Dzongkha keyboard is in the works also for Google's Android, which is destined to become the most popular operating system for smartphones in upcoming years.

The BBS Dzongkha Website

The Tibetan Keyboard

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Eat chillies, lose weight?

"Eat me and you will be happy, beautiful, and rich"
It is a well known fact that our bodies secrete endorphins when we eat chillies. Endorphins, which are natural opioids, make us slightly euphoric. Considering the amount of ema consumed in Bhutan, this might be one of the secrets behind Bhutan's high scores in happiness surveys...

But now there's even more good news regarding chillies: They can help reduce weight. Recent research has found that adding cayenne pepper to a meal will curb the appetite, as well as burn more calories (especially if one is not used to eating spicy!). So the next time chilips are envious of thin Bhutanese who are consuming endless amounts of rice, just direct them to the ema datsi bowl...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

There's life after asparagus datsi

Asparagus is now in abundance. The price has stabilized at Nu 45 to 50 for a bunch of these delicious shoots. And if you're tired of the same old asparagus preparation, the New York Times food columnist, in perfect timing, has recently written a column with 12 asparagus recipe ideas under the headline "Steamed, Roasted, Stir-Fried, Grilled". The food photography is, as usual, superb. There's also a high-res PDF file (1.3MB) with the recipes and photos.